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Photo of civilians atop Bala Hisar Fort misrepresented amid PTI protests

Viral misleading claims were flagged by journalist who took the picture

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Claim: An image shows PTI protesters standing atop and conquering the Bala Hisar Fort, which houses the FC headquarters in Peshawar, amid demonstrations against the arrest of Imran Khan.

Fact: The image actually shows civilian employees of Bala Hisar Fort watching the protest on the main GT Road, according to the journalist who took the picture.

On 9 May 2023, Facebook page ‘PTI Panjpir’ posted a picture (archive) of a large number of people standing atop the Bala Hisar Fort — also known as Balahisar Fort and Bala Hissar Fort — a Mughal-era structure that serves as the Frontier Corps (FC) headquarters in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

The post is accompanied by the following caption:

“پی ٹی آئی جوانوں نے قلعہ بالا حصار کا کنٹرول سنبھال کر 1971 کی یاد تازہ کردی۔ یہ جنگ شروع تم نے کی ہے اور ختم ہم کریں گے انشاءاللہ، جنکی تاریخ میں کوئی فتح نہیں اور ساری تاریخ ہی شکست سے بھری پڑی ہو وہ لوگ سیسے ہی اپنوں پہ ٹوٹ پڑتے ہیں۔ لیکن ان شکست خوردوں کو ادھ بھی ٹکر کی لوگ ملیں ہیں۔
[PTI workers refreshed memories from 1971 by taking control of Bala Hisar Fort. You started this war and we will finish it, God willing. Those who have no victories in their history and the entire history is full of defeats, they come down hard on their own [people] like this. But these losers have found their match.]”

Protests erupted across Pakistan after the 9 May arrest (archive) of former prime minister and chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan.

The cricketer-turned-politician was taken into custody by Pakistan Rangers — apparently acting on the arrest warrants issued by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) — from the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) premises as he was there to appear in a hearing in the Al-Qadir Trust case.

So far, at least eight people have been killed in the demonstrations, 145 police wounded, and 1,400 detained, according to a report (archive) that cited police officials.

A day after his arrest, an accountability court granted (archive) the NAB an eight-day remand of Khan. However, on 11 May, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared (archive) his arrest illegal and ordered his immediate release.

Fact or Fiction?

Soch Fact Check first found out about the image going viral with false claims when the individual who took it posted about it.

Izharullah, a multimedia journalist at Independent Urdu, said (archive) he had “seen this photo taken by me, taking round on social media that PTI protestors have entered Balahisar Forte in Peshawar yesterday”.

“Actually, they are civilian employees of Balahisar Forte looking into the protest rally on main GT [Grand Trunk] Road outside the Forte,” he wrote.

When we asked him when he took the photo in question, he said (archive) it was yesterday — Tuesday, 9 May 2023, the day of Khan’s arrest — and that he had “posted it here yesterday”. This can be corroborated here (archive).

In another tweet, he explained (archive) that the civilian employees were atop the building and that “FC personnel were guarding the gate”.

It is important to note, however, that PTI protesters were indeed in the area, according to the same journalist (archive) and multiple (archive) reports (archive).

Virality

Soch Fact Check found that the photo was being shared widely on Twitter. A number of verified accounts including @BabaJaniPTI2 (archive), @DailyWrm (archive), and @iShahidPTI (archive) posted the image. Posts by @Abdulla94385427 (archive), @MforGiloJan (archive), @MforGiloJan (archive), and @usmanbullet2 (archive) were viewed more than 22,200, 17,300, 7,500, and 7,400 times, respectively.

The image also gained significant traction on Facebook; some of the posts can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

Conclusion: The individual who took the picture confirmed to Soch Fact Check that the image shows civilian employees of Bala Hisar Fort watching the protest at main GT Road.


Background image in cover photo: @ExplorePakistan

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